By Amy Robertson
ate this fall, Briercrest College and Seminary graduate students will have an opportunity to study multi-site ministry on-site in Ontario.
Michael Pawelke, one of Briercrest’s board members and the senior pastor at Compass Point Bible Church, a multi-site church in southern Ontario, will teach Theory and Practice of Multi-Site Ministry from November 28 to December 2, 2010, at Compass Point’s Kerns campus in Burlington.
The course, which runs from Sunday to Thursday, will give students an opportunity to visit Compass Point’s three campuses (including a Sunday morning service) and understand first-hand some of the dynamics involved in multi-site ministry.
David Guretzki, the dean of the seminary, saw a need for such a course several months ago in light of the growing trend of multi-site churches in large urban centres like Edmonton (Beulah Alliance Church), Calgary (Centre Street Church), and Toronto (The Meeting House).
Guretzki knew the best way to study the phenomenon would be in the context of a multi-site church and from someone experienced in multi-site ministry, so he broached the topic with Pawelke in April. He agreed.
Pawelke said that going multi-site can be a great alternative to planting a new congregation for churches who are outgrowing their buildings.
He explained that church plants often struggle due to lack of funds and inadequate support. Pawelke pointed to his church-planting experience in Winnipeg before he took up his post at Compass Point. His church plant had denominational support, but no one close by to help.
“There were some very lonely days,” he said.
Simply going multi-site allows churches to grow and multiply without the struggle of starting from scratch, he said.
“Multi-site allows for that long-term stability.”
“You have a net underneath you.”
Finances in particular are a key consideration, he explained.
Beginning a second church service or site is much cheaper than planting a brand-new church because of resource-sharing.
At many multi-site churches, the weekly sermon is broadcast across simultaneous services or repeated through different services.
During the course, Pawelke plans to explore key issues like determining the relationships that different church sites should have with one another. Some are carbon copies—“like McDonalds’,” Pawelke said—while others are very different.
He noted that the goal of multi-site ministry isn’t to multiply sites, but to multiply—it’s another opportunity to facilitate growth and spread the Gospel.
“New ministries are always more evangelistic than existing ministries,” Pawelke explained.
“The emphasis of Scripture is that the Body of Christ is a living, breathing, systemic, organic entity. Living things grow, and living things multiply.”
Pawelke taught his first Briercrest course in the college in January: Issues in Ministry Leadership. It was a “great time,” he said. “Great students.”
He has also taught at McMaster University’s divinity college in Hamilton.
The Briercrest course is aimed at its Master of Divinity students, but is open to all seminary students as well as new students who have never studied at Briercrest.
The seminary is not new to off-site modular courses, having done a few in Eastern Canada in the 90s. Briercrest’s seminary also operates an extension site in India.